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Magnitude-7.3 earthquake off El Salvador coast shakes Central America

October 14, 2014

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – A powerful magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck off the coast of Central America late Monday, killing at least one person and prompting a brief tsunami warning.

Electricity was cut off in parts of El Salvador and beyond and walls crumbled, but there were no reports of widespread damage.

The quake hit in the Pacific Ocean 170 kilometers (105 miles) southeast of the capital San Salvador, at a depth of 70 kilometers (44 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The earthquake’s magnitude was initially given as 7.4 but then lowered to 7.3.

The rumbling of the earth was felt all along the Central American coast, from Guatemala in the north to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in the south and inland to Honduras.

In El Salvador, a man died when an electrical pylon fell on him in the city of San Miguel, Mayor Wilfredo Salgado told YSKL radio.

“It was strong when it started to rumble, and it would not stop. My family just prayed and asked God for it to stop,” María Etelvina Deras, who lives in Usulután, 110 kilometers southeast of the capital, told the radio station.

‘It was ugly’

“All I could see was that things in the house were moving, and my wife grabbed me and took me out to the courtyard of the house and we waited for it to stop. It was ugly,” said Rubén Aguirre, in Zacatecoluca, another town southeast of the capital.

Crews were combing affected areas in search of more possible victims and to assess damage, Salvadoran Civil Protection chief Jorge Meléndez said.

Walls of some buildings fell, Salgado said, but there were no other immediate reports of injuries.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center quickly issued a warning for coastal areas located within 300 kilometers (190 miles) of the epicenter, but lifted the alert minutes later.

“Any remaining threat should be evaluated by local authorities in impacted areas,” the U.S. agency said.

Electricity was knocked out in some eastern provinces of El Salvador, YSKL reported.

The quake was felt in the Nicaraguan capital Managua and other cities, but no immediate injuries or damage were reported, officials said.

Still, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a preventive state of alert along the coast because of possible aftershocks.

Seaside residents were urged to seek higher ground, and classes in schools were canceled nationwide for Tuesday.

Electricity and phone service in some areas of Nicaragua were cut off.

In the port city of Corinto, people fled inland in cars or on foot, Radio Ya reported.

The quake was also felt strongly in Honduras and Guatemala, but there were no reports of casualties or major damage.

A magnitude-5.3 aftershock was felt in Costa Rica.

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